The new blood coursing through the Australian workforce is transforming the business landscape at a rapid rate. Armed with their mobile devices, this new generation of workers is forcing businesses to adapt to the changing needs or risk losing them.
For business owners and managers, this Generation Mobile (GenMobile) represents the confluence of flexible working, BYOD and always-on connectivity elevating mobility to a way of life, not just a way of working.
Vastly different to traditional ways of working, this new generation of workers, spanning all ages, demands high technology connectivity, flexible working conditions and access to multiple devices.
In order to attract and keep the best talent, businesses need to start looking for solutions to ensure levels of empowerment and productivity in this emerging world of the all-wireless workplace. Ultimately, many will have to totally redefine traditional work environments.
When it comes to engaging and retaining top talent within the GenMobile demographic, businesses need to implement smart solutions that will attract the best in market. Consider what will appeal to them -- with more than 50 per cent of people surveyed by Aruba Networks preferring to work from home two to three days a week than receive a 10 per cent salary rise, are you in a position to offer complete connectivity to important work data from a home office to your employees?
Additionally, nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed prefer Wi-Fi at the expense of other connections. How does your wireless network stand up with an entire enterprise logging on at once?
A culture of connectivity
It’s important to create a culture of connectivity. In our engagement with some of Australia’s leading organisations, we have seen time and time again that having a secure wireless network in place boosts productivity and collaboration. However, it’s important that businesses help their employees achieve work-life balance by implementing policies around “switching off” after-hours.
Burnout is a serious issue. Information overload can be draining and ultimately impact quality of work so it’s now an employer’s responsibility to ensure people are in fact not connected to work 24/7.
By giving people the freedom to work anytime and anywhere, yet encouraging strategies for work-life balance, you are establishing a driven workforce that is empowered and disciplined to succeed.
Wi-FI and self service
From a technical and IT management perspective, the impact of GenMobile has been quite pronounced for IT infrastructure, particularly an organisation’s wireless network capabilities.
There was a time when Wi-Fi was deployed within an organisation primarily as a convenience technology. It was an adjunct to the wired network and allowed people in meeting rooms to access the corporate network without plugging in. It was only accessed by a SOE laptop and in very limited numbers.
About four years ago, organisations began to deploy wide spread secure Wi-Fi across most or all areas as tablets and smartphones started to appear in the workplace. These new devices were never designed to "plug into a port via a blue cable" so the only way they could connect to the corporate network was either via 3G/4G or Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi is the connection method of choice due to the obvious speed and cost benefits but organisations have also had to deal with a heterogenous device mix(Microsoft, Apple and Android) for the first time in decades, leading to new IT services and a move to a more "self service" model for getting these devices onto the corporate network.
Today this transformation is in full swing. Not only have mobile devices proliferated in the workplace but the sheer number of applications available is staggering. Many of the applications found on employees’ devices are personal but there are an ever-increasing number of corporate applications being used to improve workplace productivity.
This has brought completely new demands for the corporate wireless network. For example, the traditional device to user count was 1:1. That is, each user had one device -- either a desktop or laptop -- so if they had to design a wireless network it would be done for a 1:1 ratio of wireless devices (same number of wireless devices as users). Today, the ratio is typically 1:3. That is, three devices per user. Hence the device density has greatly increased, meaning that every wireless access point needs to be able to support more devices than just a few years ago.
The proliferation of applications has also created complexities for wireless. As was mentioned earlier, wireless networks of a few years ago were designed with a 1:1 device count and also to predominantly support data only.
Rich media demands
Today, rich media has become the norm. Generation Mobile users expect the network to support HD video, regular definition video, voice, and data simultaneously and all without any latency or jitter.
Wireless networks supporting GenMobile users need to be smart in the sense that they need to be fully application aware. They need to be able to recognise the business critical applications as well as recognise if a unified communications application (such as Microsoft Lync or Skype) starts up, or if a video is being streamed and if so, automatically prioritise these traffic types above applications that are always 'on’ such as file synchronisation or email downloads.
The networks supporting GenMobile users need to be able to handle much higher client densities than a few years ago. Wireless networks supporting GenMobile users also requires connections with each device are rock solid and continually optimised as the user moves around the workplace from office to office or floor to floor.
These demands require the latest generation wireless infrastructure along with support for 802.11ac -- the new Gigabit Wi-Fi standard that is being rapidly adopted by all infrastructure and device manufacturers to ensure GenMobile users remain as content and productive as possible.
Steve Coad is Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand at Aruba Networks.
Mark Verbloot is Director, Systems Engineering, Australia and New Zealand at Aruba Networks.